Four generations of the Kapnek-Zasloff family took part in the eighth annual Dolphins Cancer Challenge on Saturday to support the life-saving work of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Ninety-four-year-old Ethel Kapnek, a longtime Sylvester supporter who proudly raised more than $4,000 this year, inspired her daughter, two grandsons, and great-grandson Eli Zasloff to join her for the 5K walk.
“I’m here for my great-grandmother because a lot of people in our family passed away,” said 8-year-old Eli, who came all the way from California. “Now I’m trying to prevent cancer so that won’t happen anymore.”
“In spite of the tragedies that we’ve had in our family, we’ve had such good fortune too,” said Eli’s grandmother, Judy Zasloff LaKind. “Those of us who are here are healthy and able to do this to honor those that are not here. And we’re looking forward to next year. It’s been a great experience for us.”
Throughout the day, thousands of South Floridians shared hugs, smiles and a few tears in recalling their loved ones during the DCC VIII celebration at Hard Rock Stadium.
“Thank you all for joining us in the fight against the deadly scourge of cancer,” said University of Miami President Julio Frenk, M.D. He was joined on the stage by 10-year breast cancer survivor Felicia Knaul, Ph.D., a member of Sylvester, professor of public health sciences and director of the Institute for the Advanced Study of the Americas, who thanked her husband for his support and reported “good news” from her latest mammogram.
“Everyone taking part in the Dolphins Cancer Challenge supports Sylvester’s life-saving clinical care, leading-edge research, and educational programs about preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer,” said Edward Abraham, M.D., Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, CEO of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine.
Since the Miami Dolphins Foundation teamed up with the University of Miami to launch the annual fundraising event in 2010, the Dolphins Cancer Challenge has raised more than $22.5 million for Sylvester’s programs.
An Incredible Partnership
“We have an incredible partnership with the Miami Dolphins that makes this all possible,” said Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., after completing the 100-mile cycling ride. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support in helping us cure more people with cancer.”
The lineup of DCC VIII cyclists, runners and walkers included more than 300 cancer survivors wearing “Living Proof” T-shirts. Cheering them on were civic leaders, professionals and athletes, including Miami Dolphins wide receiver Malcolm Lewis, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Oliver Gilbert III, mayor of Miami Gardens.
Along with returning participants, the DCC brought out newcomers like Alberto Moreno, who ran the 5K cheered by his wife Anna and daughter Carlota.
Another first-timer was Miami-Dade firefighter Paul Hoar, who was treated successfully for colon cancer at Sylvester.
“It’s a privilege to be here as a volunteer,” he said.
Like hundreds of University of Miami students, faculty and staff members, Arturo Badia, an administrator in neuro-oncology, was glad to support Sylvester as a member of Team Hurricanes.
“I took part in the DCC to support our patients, and to remember my father, who passed away last year from cancer,” he said.
Advancing Cancer Research
In thanking DCC participants, Sylvester’s cancer researchers emphasized the importance of their contributions.
“These funds support our freshest ideas as we move forward into the era of personalized cancer care,” said W. Jarrard Goodwin, M.D., Sylvester’s Chief Medical Officer. “In many cases, it’s hard to get grant funding until you already know half the story.”
Kerry L. Burnstein, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology and Director of the Sheila and David Fuente Graduate Program in Cancer Biology, agreed with Goodwin, adding, “The funds we receive from the DCC promote truly innovative research.”
DCC participants are also helping in the fight against pediatric cancers.
“We see far too many young patients with cancer, and our goal is to bring the fatality rate down to zero,” said Judith L. Schaechter, M.D., Chair of Pediatrics. “Every child deserves to live a full life.”
Noting the scarcity of federal research funds for rare cancers, Breelyn A. Wilky, M.D., assistant professor in Sylvester’s sarcoma program, said, “Because of the dollars you raise, I was able to take on two clinical trials that bring new treatments to South Florida. Together, we are changing the nature of cancer care.”
Joyce M. Slingerland, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Director of Translational Research and Director of the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at Sylvester, is doing groundbreaking research in her lab aimed at having a significant impact on patient care in the coming years.
“We can’t rely completely on government and foundations to fund our research,” Slingerland said, “and we are so very grateful to our DCC participants.”
Fighting Cancer and Staying Fit
The first cyclists at DCC VIII got an early start, leaving Hard Rock Stadium at 6 a.m. for the “Hurricanes Hundred” presented by BBVA Compass. That 100-mile ride was followed by the 52-mile Boca Ride, the 35-mile Miami Ride presented by Amgen, the 25-mile Fort Lauderdale ride presented by Carnival Foundation, and the 14-mile Dolphins Ride presented by the Harcourt M. and Virginia W. Sylvester Foundation.
After completing the 35-mile ride, cancer survivor Billy Lindner said, “We are very fortunate to have Sylvester right here in South Florida. I’ve gotten wonderful treatment there, and now it’s even more convenient because I can see my doctors at The Lennar Foundation Medical Center in Coral Gables.”
At 9:30 a.m., hundreds of runners and walkers crossed the starting line of the DCC VIII 5K, presented by Florida City Gas, to the sounds of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”
After the cyclists, runners and walkers completed their events, they stayed with family and friends to listen to the Goo Goo Dolls and Big Head Todd & the Monsters perform in the DCC VIII Finish Line Celebration.
As Jennifer Jehn, executive director of the Miami Dolphins Foundation, said at the start of the 5K race, “Everyone’s life has been touched by cancer. This is our opportunity to share our experiences and give something back.”
Additional photos from DCC VIII may be seen here.